Sajid Javid has promised a new social housing green paper as well as an announcement on the post-2020 social rent regime ‘very, very soon’.
In his keynote speech at the National Housing Federation’s annual conference in Birmingham today (19 September 2017), the secretary of state for communities and local government pledged a green paper on social housing, which he said required a ‘fundamental rethink’.
Mr Javid said the paper would be a “wide-ranging, top-to-bottom review” of the sector and the “most substantial report of its kind for a generation.”
He said that the green paper would cover concerns around the safety of social housing, which has been highlighted in the wake of the tragic fire that engulfed Grenfell Tower in June.
But Mr Javid said that the green paper would ‘go much further’ by looking at the quality and management of the UK’s social housing stock.
In addition, the paper would address how social housing could contribute to the government’s industrial strategy to boost the economy.
Mr Javid also told the conference that associations would not have to wait ‘much longer’ on the future formula for social housing rents, which are subject to a 1 per cent per annum cut until April 2020.
Mr Javid said “I’ve been pushing right across government, as hard as I can, to confirm the future formula for social housing rents. But I can promise you this: an announcement will be made very, very soon.”
He said that social landlords required certainty and clarity over rents ‘sooner rather than later’.
Alongside upcoming moves on rents and the green paper, Mr Javid also said there would be an announcement on the implementation of the housing association right to buy.
But while acknowledging that there were issues that need to be looked at, he backed the right to buy as a ‘great scheme’.
He said: “It helps people get on the housing ladder and, by releasing funds, it helps deliver the next generation of homes for affordable rent.”
Responding to Mr Javid’s speech, NHF chief executive David Orr called on the government to reallocate unspent sums earmarked for its Starter Homes initiative to the affordable homes budget.
He said: “Immediately reallocating the unspent £1.1bn for Starter Homes would be a step in the right direction, and would in turn bring the housing benefit bill down.
“We look forward to working in partnership with Government and delivering homes of all kinds for people on low income.”
CIH chief executive Terrie Alafat CBE, said the green paper should look at shifting the housing investment from private to affordable housing.
She said: “Ministers need to take an urgent look at rebalancing the housing budget and investing more in genuinely affordable homes for rent.”
Ms Alafat also called for the green paper to consider the impact of welfare reforms, which have been introduced since 2012, on housing affordability.
Mr Javid’s announcements follow the publication of new figures by the NHF earlier today showing that public investment in new housing has fallen from £11.4bn in 2009 to £5.3bn in 2015, which equated to 0.7 per cent and 0.2 per cent of GDP in each year.